Parler, a social networking service that advocated free speech before it was deplatformed has sued Amazon.com on Monday, accusing its Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting service of violating antitrust law by suspending Parler’s account.
Parler are thought to have sued Amazon, rather than Apple and Google, as “both the apps and the website are written to work with AWS’s technology,” the lawsuit reads. “Without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online” without major code rewrites.
In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in Seattle, Parler said Amazon’s decision to effectively shutter its account was “apparently motivated by political animus” and “apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter.”
Parler is seeking a court order requiring Amazon to reinstate its account, and blocking it from suspending services it had contracted for. It is also seeking unspecified triple damages.
Google and Apple had already removed Parler from their app stores towards the end of last week saying it had failed to comply with their content-moderation requirements.
Parler has been online since 2018, and may return if it can find an alternative host.
However, chief executive John Matze told Fox News on Sunday that “every vendor from text message services to email providers to our lawyers all ditched us too”.
“We’re going to try our best to get back online as quickly as possible, but we’re having a lot of trouble because every vendor we talk to says they won’t work with us because if Apple doesn’t approve and Google doesn’t approve, they won’t,” he added.
Parler’s users included the Republican Senator Ted Cruz… He had about five million followers on the platform – more than his tally on Twitter. “Why should a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires have a monopoly on political speech?” he tweeted over the weekend.
Amazon said it couldn’t provide services to “a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence.”
However, “Friday night one of the top trending tweets on Twitter was ‘Hang Mike Pence,’” Parler said in its complaint, yet AWS “has no plans nor has it made any threats to suspend Twitter’s account. AWS’s decision to effectively terminate Parler’s account is apparently motivated by political animus. It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter.”
The case is Parler LLC v Amazon Web Services Inc., 21-cv-31, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington.
Parler then went offline shortly after 3am EST Monday after Amazon booted the platform off its web hosting service, effectively shutting the site down until it can find a new hosting partner or fund its own servers.
CEO John Matze said he was doing more than Facebook and Twitter to try and remove violent content from his app. In a statement Monday morning self declared libertarian Matze said: ‘Evaluated objectively, our system worked as well or better than the methods used by our competitors, while adhering to our principles.’
Matze argued ‘up until Friday afternoon it seemed Apple, Amazon and Google agreed’ the app had been effective in their efforts to remove ‘objectionable content’, adding: ‘You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out.’
Matze had initially said that Parler might be unavailable for ‘up to a week as we rebuild from scratch’, but now says it might be offline for longer. Google and Apple both booted Trump friendly Gab from their app stores in 2017 and it was left internet-homeless for a time. It now hosts through its own servers.
Critics have continued to slammed the big tech giants for purging free speech in the wake of Donald Trump’s Twitter ban.
MacDailyNews Take: Apple on Saturday removed the Parler app from the App Store. Parler, which bills itself as “the world’s town square” where users can “speak freely and openly,” was removed because Apple said the alternative to Twitter was fostering “direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action.”
Apple’s App Review Board wrote to the developers of Parler, in part:
We have determined that the measures you describe are inadequate to address the proliferation of dangerous and objectionable content on your app.
Parler has not upheld its commitment to moderate and remove harmful or dangerous content encouraging violence and illegal activity, and is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines… Specifically, we have continued to find direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action in violation of Guideline 1.1 – Safety – Objectionable Content…
While there is no perfect system to prevent all dangerous or hateful user content, apps are required to have robust content moderation plans in place to proactively and effectively address these issues.
For these reasons, your app will be removed from the App Store until we receive an update that is compliant with the App Store Review Guidelines and you have demonstrated your ability to effectively moderate and filter the dangerous and harmful content on your service.
Apple’s reasoning for pulling Parler is fine, if applied uniformly.
Yet, Twitter, Facebook, etc. remain available on Apple’s App Store.
Anyone who claims that Twitter and/or Facebook have robust content moderation in place that effectively removes harmful or dangerous content that encourages violence and illegal activity is either ignorant or lying.
So, which is it, Apple?
• A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill. ― Robert A. Heinlein
• Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers… – Apple, Think Different™ campaign, 1997